Porting VirtualBox Install (Reprinted)

I’m currently running Windows XP in VirtualBox with no problems on four computers.

VB creates a fixed size “hard drive” in the form of a .vdi file. I set my XP VDI file to fixed size of 20 Gigs, which is too large to backup to an optical disc (DVD). However, because the VDI file is seen as a single homogeneous file, it can be broken up into multiple smaller files with a file spanning program, like KSplit for Linux, burned to multiple DVDs, transfered to another Linux system and then re-assembled using the same KSplit spanning program.

The re-assembled VDI file can then be stored in a folder in the Home files folder (similar to My Documents in Windows).  I placed the file in a folder called VMware.

Start VirtualBox and create a new virtual install of Windows XP. When you get to the stage of creating a new virtual drive, select “Existing…” and add the existing VDI file stored in a folder in your Home files.

When you first try to start the virtual XP installation in VB, you might get an error message. Close VB. Go to your Home files folder and select View > Show Hidden Files from the menu bar. Open the folder .VirtualBox and delete the file called VirtualBox.xml. Close the folder.

Restart VirtualBox and restart your virtual copy of Windows XP. It should load just fine now, as VB will rebuild the VirtualBox.xml file.

Since Windows XP will see VB as the same computer on two physically different computers, it will load and run the same on both computers without the need to re-register or re-activate.

This method also gives you a good backup of your XP install on DVD should you ever need to re-install.

I have the same install of Windows XP running in VB on my desktop computer and my laptop computer. Best of all, you can update both Windows installations, since Microsoft’s Genuine Advantage sees both installations as the same computer.

Author’s Note: This method may not work with Windows 7.  When you move a Windows 7 VDI file to another computer, the Microsoft activation code might automatically reset itself.  This forces the user to re-enter the key code and re-activate, which may be rejected.


One Response to “Porting VirtualBox Install (Reprinted)”

  1. The Doctor Says:


    By default the original .vdi file is stored in a hidden folder called .VirtualBox in your home directory. You will need to select “Show Hidden Files” from the View Menu of your file manager. Locate the .vdi inside this directory.

    To split the file using only the command line, you must open a terminal and change to that directory. simply right-click inside the directory and select “Terminal Here” from a list of Nautilus Scripts:


    To split (or span) any large file, use the following example:

    split –bytes=1024m bigfile.iso small_file_

    In this example, the first word “split” executes the splitting program built into almost every Linux distribution.

    The second instruction tells the program how big we want each piece of the file to be in Megabytes. In this example, each piece will be exactly one Gigabyte in size. I usually set mine to “700m”, so that each file would fit on a single blank CD. However, I generally back up the split files to blank single-layer DVD’s.

    The third part (“bigfile.iso”) is the name of the file to be split. And the last part (“small_file_”) will be the first part of each split piece to be created. Note: there is a space between each section of this code:

    split [space] –bytes=1024m [space] bigfile.iso [space] small_file_

    When I split WinXP.vdi, the command looks like this:

    split –bytes=700m WinXP.vdi WinXP_vdi_

    Now you can drag-and-drop the split files to new folder and burn them to blank disks for safe keeping.

    To assemble the files, you basically work in reverse. This time we’ll use the “cat” command:

    cat small_file_* > joined_file.iso

    Again, you must open a terminal and be in the same directory as the split files.

    In my case, the command would look like this:

    cat WinXP_vdi_* > WinXP.vdi

    Because it’s sometimes hard to tell, there is a space between each section of this command:

    cat [space] WinXP_vdi_* [space] > [space] WinXP.vdi

    When you hit the [Enter] key, the file will be created in the same directory. This process does not delete the split files.

    You can now move and use your newly assembled large file.



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